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Goals vs. Outcomes

To help clarify the distinction between curricular goals and learning outcomes this page provides some examples of both types of assessment component in the format of a partial department description, the sort one might find on a departmental webpage. These examples are fictitious but plausible; a sociology department in an undergraduate college could reasonably use such language.

Sample curricular goals

Our sociology program exposes students to central concepts and theories of sociology, both classical and contemporary. The program offers students experiences in carrying out undergraduate-level sociological research and helps students develop skills in thinking sociologically. Students in the program will learn about the history of sociology and examine the many types of social patterns of interest to sociologists.

Sample learning outcomes

Upon graduation, Sociology majors will be able to:

  1. Explain C. Wright Mills’ concept of the “sociological imagination”
  2. Describe how different institutions contribute to racial inequality
  3. Carry out an in-depth interview
  4. Analyze statistical data using appropriate statistical tests
  5. Write a sociological paper based on original research

Note that the learning outcomes do not line up perfectly with the curricular goals. This is because both the paragraph of curricular goals and the list of learning outcomes are incomplete. There are, however, some one-to-one correlations: "Central concepts of sociology" includes Mills' concept of the sociological imagination, and sociological research skills include in-depth interviewing and statistical testing.